Doctors’ appointments can be stressful, especially when you live with a chronic condition. Members of Healthline’s chronic condition communities are here to help.
If you live with a chronic condition, chances are you’ve spent a significant amount of time navigating doctors’ appointments.
Sometimes, doctors’ appointments can make you feel reassured or relieved. Other times, visiting the doctor may make you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or frustrated.
Experiencing anxiety about or during a doctor’s appointment is very common. Some people even experience hypertension, or high blood pressure, specifically due to anxiety about being in a medical setting.
Research suggests that up to 30 percent of people who present with hypertension may be experiencing “white coat hypertension.” This means that they experience high blood pressure only in medical settings.
Beyond causing anxiety, doctors’ appointments can often feel too short.
It can be frustrating to leave a doctor’s appointment and feel like there wasn’t enough time for the doctor to address all of your concerns or questions.
Feeling as though doctors’ appointments are rushed or too short isn’t just a complaint among patients. In a 2018 survey, 85 percent of physicians reported that they didn’t feel they had enough time to fully address the concerns of their patients with chronic conditions.
It’s important to feel respected and heard when you visit the doctor, especially when you live with a chronic condition.
It can take practice to learn how to be your own best advocate. Likewise, it can also take time and patience to find a team of healthcare professionals who are a good fit for your needs.
Members of the BC Healthline, IBD Healthline, RA Healthline, and T2D Healthline communities understand firsthand the challenges of navigating doctors’ appointments when living with a chronic condition.
Six community members share their advice here for feeling more confident in medical settings.
“Keep a running list of questions you want to ask your doctor. Every time you think of something you want to ask, go write it down, so you don’t forget” — Linda M., BC Healthline community member
“It took me three gastrointestinal doctors to find the one that I have had now for 4 years, and he is the best!
“He treats me as a person and not just a disease. He also recognizes and respects that I have a say in my treatment. I rely on him as the medical professional, and he relies on me as the owner and knower of my body.
“I am fortunate to have a doctor like this, because this disease is a life-altering thing to live with, and it can get bad quickly.” — Dval, IBD Healthline community member
“Life experiences have taught me that you must self-advocate. Don’t be afraid to call the office and ask questions. Don’t wait more than a day or two for a response.
“We always make excuses to ourselves like ‘Oh, the doctor is busy,’ or ‘The office must have forgotten to tell the doctor.’ There is no excuse for your doctor to ignore your symptoms.” — Susan Sparks, RA Healthline community member
“My daughter, when she can, often attends doctors’ visits with me. She sometimes comes up with questions that I never even think about. She’s the one, outside myself, who holds me accountable.” — Margaret Vanzo, T2D Healthline community member
“I try to think of three important things I want to ask or discuss with the doctor. That way, neither of us gets overwhelmed. Usually I don’t have more questions beyond that.” — EscapeTamara65, T2D Healthline community member
“My first gastrointestinal doctor who diagnosed me would shrug off all my concerns and just made me feel I didn’t know anything.
“She started me on treatment and, at our next appointment a month later, I told her it wasn’t working. She blamed me for not contacting her earlier. It was so frustrating.
“I switched to someone else, and I am so glad I did. Since this is a chronic condition, it’s extra important to find a doctor you connect with, since you’ll be reaching out to them a lot.” — Anonymous, IBD Healthline community member
If you’ve experienced anxiety, frustration, or confusion because of a doctor’s appointment, you aren’t alone.
It’s important to remember that you and your doctor are a team. Like with any successful team, communication is key.
If you don’t feel comfortable or confident raising your concerns with your doctor, it may be a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel like my doctor listens to my opinions?
- Could it help to prepare questions before a doctor’s appointment?
- Is it possible that a different type of doctor or specialist may be more suited to my needs?
The first step to feeling more confident at doctors’ appointments is to recognize what exactly is causing your negative emotions.
If you’re looking for advice about navigating life with a chronic condition, at the doctor’s office and beyond, Healthline’s chronic condition communities are here to help.
Check out the BC Healthline, Migraine Healthline, PsA Healthline, MS Healthline, IBD Healthline, RA Healthline, and T2D Healthline communities to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
Elinor Hills is an associate editor at Healthline. She’s passionate about the intersection of emotional well-being and physical health as well as how individuals form connections through shared medical experiences. Outside of work, she enjoys yoga, photography, drawing, and spending way too much of her time running.